What stands out immediately about this record Letícia is the ebullient mood that is struck with the first few notes of “Segura e Sai.” From then on the music gets busier but retains its sense of “alegria.” A warning, however: it pays not to me misled by the nature of the tracks that flow one after the other. Valdetaro and his group do a fine job of masking the true complexity of the songs. On “Concorrencia Desleal” for instance, the Forrobodo form is exquisitely captured by the guitarist, who plays linear, flowing lines as the saxophone of Josue dos Santos weaves interesting contrapuntal melodies into the song. This is just a glimpse of what Valdetaro is capable of and showcases on the record.
The guitar and indeed stringed instruments play a featured melodic role in South American music. Guitarists such as Baden Powell, Luis Bonfa and Oscar Castro-Neves and many others opened up myriad harmonic possibilities as bossa nova and other idioms have become more widespread. But the key to maintaining the core values of rhythm and syncopation while enriching harmony have been a challenge to those to whom virtuosity is given. Thus Antonio Valdetaro faces challenges in composition and performance. The trick is to stay away from trite imagery and keep the music fresh and new.
On Letícia, Antonio Valdetaro manages to do much of this on his own. His compositions, while staying close to tradition, push hard at expanding the forms. The guitarist has an interesting vocal touch and, as he shows on “Letícia” is capable of writing music that recalls the heyday of Brasilian music. “Urublues Malandro” shows that Valdetaro does not shy away from employing humor and irony in his music as well. “Deixa Estar” features some wonderful writing that is good as any of the fine music that Caetano Veloso produced. Rubinho Antunes executes a warm and round, brassy flugelhorn solo, which is quite unusual for that type of horn.
There is a touch of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd in the record and this is understandable as those two stellar musicians practically redefined bossa nova for audiences in the United States. It is quite possible that this record by Antonio Valdetaro and Grupo may have a similar effect. It is sometimes a pity that the industry has not kept pace with artistic development and chooses marketing gymnastics over artistic merit. On a different field this record might have made a somewhat greater impact on audiences in North America.
Tracks: Segura e Sai; Bossa Louca; Concorrência Deslea (p/ Guinga); Tradição (p/Paulinho Da Viola); Letícia; Urublues Malandro; Deixa Estar; Moça Bonita; Canção da Geraes.
Personnel: Antonio Valdetaro: violao and guitars; Fabio Leandro: piano; Josue dos Santos: saxophones and flutes; Pepa D’Elia: drums; Roberto Carvalho: electric bass. Special Guests: Adriano Trindade: drums (2); Ary Dias: drums (4); Rubinho Antunes: trumpet (8) and flugelhorn (7); Sidiel Viera: acoustic bass (5).
Antonio Valdetaro on the web: www.antoniovaldetaro.com
Review written by: Raul da Gama